Highway engineers crash out

If you were hoping to come to a meeting tonight at Arup’s offices to hear me speak about rail privatisation to the London Branch of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation, you will be disappointed. The meeting has been cancelled for reasons that reveal all too well why Highway engineers frequently create street environments that are cluttered, ugly and not fit for purpose. Unlike the implication in the email sent out by the organisers, the cancellation had nothing to do with me.

As I always do, I had asked if could bring a few books to sell to the audience. At first I was told ‘we don’t mind either way’ but then some committee members apparently thought that such activity would breach their charitable status because it was ‘commercial’. Quite apart from that being utter nonsense – I have sold books at dozens of meetings in village halls and for all kinds of organisations over the years and in any case they are offered at huge discounts – it demonstrates the kind of bureaucratic mind which appears incapable of seeing a large picture – for example, their audience would like the opportunity to browse and buy books from an author and I invariably get such requests if I fail to bring any. Moreover, the Charity Commissioners were hardly going to be at the door checking for ‘commercial activity’, even if it did breach their terms, which it does not.  They said reluctantly I could bring books but not display them. When I said ‘don’t be daft’, they cancelled the meeting, much to the embarrassment of the main person who had organised it.

While on the subject of HEs, I will give one example of the results of treating the roadscape in a similar bureauratic way. There is a little cycle path running into the Caledonian Road from a side road, and despite being about 1.5 metres wide, it has two strips of ghastly double yellow lines to prevent anyone parking there – when there is not even room for half a car. The lines are ugly and unsightly, and presumably cost money to install. That is just a tiny example replicated around the country such as the famous sea of ‘cyclists dismount’ signs on  a cycle route in Harlow, thankfully now removed.

  • AC

    Perhaps the yellow lines are there to stop someone parking a motorbike or a moped (not just a car).

  • Al

    if the cycle lane is a Mandatory Cycle Lane (solid white line) there isn’t actually any need to have double yellows as well- it is illegal for a motor vehicle to enter such a lane at all, let alone park in it.

    However, only the police can enforce that rule, whilst council Parking Enforcement can ticket for double yellow lines.

  • G. Tingey

    You should see the “new “traffic-light here, otside Walthamstow Central Station.
    Which have had orange hoods over 4 of them for 4 months now – because they are “potentially unsafe”.
    Putting hodds on them means that pedestrians and cyclists can’t see the aspects, which makes them REALLY unsafe.
    Needless to say, although both the local council and TfL know about this lunacy, nothing has actually been done.
    ( Like take the blasted hoods OFF )

  • RapidAssistant

    Well all I’ll say here is that jobsworths and the transport industry – they seem to go hand in hand for some peculiar reason!

  • Simon

    The real reason why our roads and highways are in such a dreadful state (never-ending roadworks, lane narrowings, pointless bits of street furniture, road markings, pavement markings, flagging, digging, trenching, coning, etc etc etc) is that the people being appointed to carry out these works just have to be seen to be doing something – no matter how trivial or pointless – as a means of justifying their existence as they’re overseen by authorities too arrogant and idiotic to know anything about wasting tax payers’ money.

    A quick look around ANY sizeable village, town or city can tell you that an ever growing percentage of our pavements and tarmac are now under seige from the merciless onslaught of the crazy highways brigade masquerading under such blandly cliched soubriquets as ‘streetscene’, etc… I’ve taken my own council to task over several shocking examples of gratuitous highway vandalism over the past couple of years, I can tell you. There is nothing they dislike more than a long-suffering council tax payer letting them know in no uncertain terms just how idiotic and downright useless some of their so-called ‘environmental improvements’ really are. I really think more of you should do the same.